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Wednesday, July 04, 2001, updated at 09:07(GMT+8)

Large Cities Eye Subways, Light Rail

China will speed up construction of subways and light rail transit systems in its large cities during the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05).

"The country will encourage large cities with population of more than 1 million to build subways,'' said Lan Rong, an official with the Ministry of Construction.

During the first half of this year, the State Development Planning Commission approved construction of a 38-kilometre third subway in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, and Line 1 of the Tianjin subway, with the plan to increase the northern city's original 7.4-kilometre subway to more than 26 kilometres.

Last year, the commission approved construction of eight new subways, including the first phase of the Shenzhen metro project and the Nanjing subway line, Lan said.

As many as 20 other cities out of the country's 40 with population of more than 1 million are considering constructing subways or light rail systems to ease the increasing pressures on existing transportation facilities, she said.

Reliable sources said a total of 450 kilometres of urban rail lines involving an estimated investment of 140 billion yuan (US$16.8 billion) will be built over the next five years.

At present, only Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Hong Kong operate subways or light rail systems, with a total length of only 193.4 kilometres.

Experts agree that the development of rail transportation is one of the fundamental ways for China's 40 large cities to solve their transportation problems.

"The merits of urban and suburban rail transportation have been recognized in more than 130 countries and regions around the world,'' they said. "Subways and light rail are preferred choices for large cities.''

An earlier report said railways in Tokyo carry 87 per cent of total passenger flow. The figure in London and New York is about 60 per cent.

By comparison, only 15 per cent of passengers in Beijing use its only rail system, the subway.

However, not all cities can realize their dreams of facilitating traffic flow through the construction of subways or light transit systems. Before digging tunnels and building viaducts, they have to consider whether they can afford the cost.

"The cost of constructing urban rail systems is huge, and it takes a long time before any profit is made,'' said Li Xiaojiang, deputy director of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design.

One kilometre of subway line costs an average of 700 million yuan (US$84.3 million), Li said.

Aware that imported equipment usually accounts for a considerable proportion of the expenditure, the State has required that 70 per cent of equipment used for new urban railway lines be domestically made.

It is estimated that the cost of one kilometre of subway can be reduced to 450 million yuan (US$54.2 million) from the current 700 million yuan.

Domestic technology and equipment proved to be more than adequate in the construction of Beijing's subway, the first one in China.

Source: China Daily


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China will speed up construction of subways and light rail transit systems in its large cities during the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05).

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